Kids and Singing
At some point in the teaching process, I try to get my young students (and all of my students, for that matter) to sing as part of their musical development. This isn't something most instrument teachers do, and is not something I included in lessons in my earlier years of teaching, but as the years have gone by, I have found it to be very helpful. Singing can help develop many of the skills needed for playing an instrument and greatly sharpens the ability to play melodies by ear (meaning with no written music). Singing also helps students learn rhythms much quicker. It's not uncommon for students of mine to struggle with the rhythm of a song on their instrument, only to have it make perfect sense when they learn to sing it.
For most kids, it's more fun to sing than just play. I have definitely noticed that it enhances a kid's interest in music, and for some it makes the difference in sustaining their long-term interest in music. Singing isn't for everyone, and I certainly don't insist upon it, but when I have a willing student, it'll eventually become a standard part of the lesson.
One great benefit of this is that if kids sing a lot at a young age, it appears almost inevitable that they will develop a very good or even great singing voice. Singing skills develop much like instrumental skills – to become really accomplished, it must be practiced often. My daughter Molly would be a prime example of the benefits of singing at a young age. She started with a small and unrefined voice, but after a couple of years of singing, combine with careful listening to bluegrass singers, she developed a voice good enough to carry the lead vocals on our duet CD.
While I'm not a voice teacher per say, I do give guidance and try to help students understand the nuance of singing bluegrass. I don't take a lot of time for it in lessons, but I have played some part in developing a number of very good singers, mostly from getting them to sing regularly and listen carefully to great singers and giving them a few suggestions now and then.
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